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Remembered Today:

2nd South Staffs at Oppy Wood


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The War Diary merely records,

“28 and 29 April 1917 - Zero time fixed for 4.25am and Z day 28th. The 5th and 6th Brigades reached their 1st and 2nd objectives but were obliged to retire to original positions owing to division on right (63rd) failing to reach its objectives. The British front was subjected to heavy and ceaseless fire all through the day.

Our casualties were - Captain W.A. Simmonds, Second Lieutenants H. Johnson and J.S. Smith killed, Lieutenant. T.H. Searles wounded, Second Lieutenants C.W. Bloomfield and R.S. O’Connor missing, and 186 other ranks killed, wounded and missing…….. During the action of the 28th the remainder of this battalion not attached to the attacking battalions was in Brigade reserve, “A” Company moving up to Brown Line to position formerly held by “D” Company. The 99th Brigade took over Divisional Front on the evening of 28th and this battalion moved to A.24.c.1.1. on being relieved in the line. This move was completed by 3am 29th inst. The day was spent in cleaning up, ascertaining casualties, and deficiencies.”


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Thanks so much for that Graeme, My great grand father was in D company 2nd south staffs and was taken prisoner on that day at Oppy. This diary and that of the 17th Middlesex has now given me an idea of what happened.

Much appreciated.


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Information taken from the History of The South Staffordshire Regiment by Jones.

"The next two days were devoted to preparation for the attack on the 28th, which was given to the 5th and 6th Brigades to carry out on the Divisional front. The 6th Attack on Infantry Brigade was allotted the area of Oppy Village and Wood, while the 5th Brigade area lay between the villages of Arleux and Oppy.

For this attack, the 2nd South Staffords was split up and allotted as follows:Four Officers and 120 men of "B" Company to the 13th Essex Regiment; four Officers and 120 men of "D" Company to 17th Middlesex Regiment. "A" Company provided a carrying party of one Officer and 68 men for the 13th Essex Regiment, while " C " Company found a similar party for the 17th Middlesex Regiment. Thus, the Battalion, on going into this action, consisted of 10 Officers and 376 men, besides 4 Lewis gun teams (16 men) lent to the 13th Essex Regiment. These moves were made during the 27th.

The attack was timed to commence at 4.25 a.m. on the 28th,and our guns put down a heavy barrage on the German trenches. The troops moved forward to the attack, but by the time they reached the German wire, the enemy had opened a terrific- machine gun fire on the advancing troops. Pushing forward through this intense curtain of fire, the left flank of the attack progressed well Arleux was captured by the Canadians and the 5th Brigade also made good progress.

The 6th Brigade, attacking against Oppy Wood on the right Divisional front, had advanced with great gallantry to their second objective. Here the Germans were in overwhelming force, and the two leading Battalions, the 17th Middlesex and the 13th Essex Regiments, suddenly found themselves attacked in flank and rear. This was due to the failure of the left flank of the 63rd Division on the right of the 6th Infantry Brigade to reach its objective. The German wire was too strong to penetrate through. Having gone through Oppy Wood and entered Oppy village, these Battalions of the 6th Brigade were faced with a heavy counter-attack, and driven back to the old British line, after enduring a very inferno of shell fire and stubbornly contesting every yard of ground.

Many deeds of heroism were performed by the 2nd South Staffords this day, and their casualties were heavy.2nd Lieut. Rankin displayed great courage and resource in handling "D" Company and other details coming under his command, and his gallant behaviour was brought to notice by the Officer Commanding 17th Middlesex Regiment."

Regards Doug.

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